When a school year begins, it is fairly standard practice by nearly every educator to spend time getting to know their students. Some teachers play games while others have their students fill out a questionnaire about themselves. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you have any pets? How long have you been going to this school? These are just a few of the basic questions that are asked.
Asking students these types of questions as well as having conversations with them that are not school related is called Non-Contingent Interactions. Contingent Interactions is what our students get from us all the time. They hear us when we tell them to open up their books, copy down notes or watch a certain video.
It is also during this time that very little discipline is handed out. Many people refer to this as the Honeymoon Period. The common belief is that this is because everything is new and boredom hasn’t set in yet. This very well contribute to it, but research is showing that a greater reason is because of the amount of Non-Contingent Interaction that is taking place verses the Contingent. You want to try to keep the so called Honeymoon Period going as long as possible. The schools with the least amount of discipline issues, tend to have the highest amount of Non-Contingent Interaction taking place on a regular basis with the optimal ratio being 50-50.
Some of you at the MS/HS levels may immediately think this is not possible. You may have anywhere from 120 to 160 students a day. How are you going to talk to each student about topics other than school just as much as you do related to school? This can be done in some very simple ways. For example, greet each class with a welcome statement such as “Good Morning” or “Glad you are here today”. You can do the same when you end each class with a “See everyone tomorrow” or “Have a great weekend”. These little phrases can have a huge impact when combined over time.
As you travel around the classroom, be sure to make the little observations such as a new haircut, new shoes, a good drawing (that isn’t part of an assignment), ask what they are doing after school, if they have plans for the weekend, mention the previous nights extra-curricular event. You might slip as many as 100 of these in a day without that much additional effort.
Little connections made regularly can add up to something very significant over an entire school year. Then if you happen to have some of the same students again, it makes the relationship that much easier to establish and/or maintain.